Envío Digital
Central American University - UCA  
  Number 170 | Septiembre 1995





The National Assembly has announced the tasks that will take priority now that the reformed Constitution has gone into effect: reforms to the electoral law, passage of a law permitting the privatization of telecommunications, a property law that resolves this problem once and for all, and the election (in consensus with the executive branch) of the Comptroller General and Deputy Comptroller.

The priority for, the political class is the first item on that list. Various aspects of the existing electoral law must be changed to conform to the constitutional reforms. For example, there will now be a second round to elect the President if no candidate gets 45% of the votes in the first round; 70 of the 90 legislators in the National Assembly will now be elected at a departmental level and 20 at a national level; and voters will now directly elect municipal mayors rather than leaving the elected municipal councilors to select a mayor from among themselves.


For the second consecutive year, President Clinton overrode the application of the Helms González amendment to Nicaragua. Rightwing Republican Jesse Helms, head of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, was the main promoter of this legislation, which would suspend US aid to Nicaragua and any other country that does not fulfill a series of requirements the main one being the return of properties confiscated from US citizens. In Nicaragua's case, 90% of the claimants are Nicaraguans who received US citizenship after they were confiscated. An official Chamorro government report states that a third of the over 1,000 such properties being claimed were confiscated on the grounds that their owners were Somocistas (thus falling under Decrees 3 and 38, promulgated in 1979 and officially recognized by the current government). Another 40% are houses that would be "difficult to return" and for which their former owners refuse compensation. According to The New York Times, 700 Somocistas now nationalized as US citizens are claiming one third of all Nicaragua's arable land.


At the end of June, the Comptroller General's office sent its annual report to the National Assembly, covering 118 audits completed out of a programmed total of 275. Corruption with penal responsibility was detected in 77 of these investigations, as were 236 other cases of irregularity and influence peddling. The report referred to a "significant increase" in crimes of defrauding the state, a lack of punishment for such cases, and the absence of controls. The Comptroller's office studied to the penny the fraud cases in each state office between January 1994 and February 1995, coming up with a total of more than $3 million. According to the Comptroller General himself, the cases evaluated so far are "the mere tip of what will come out further on."


July saw four more attacks on churches and other Catholic installations with explosive devices in Masaya, León and Jinotepe. Neither they nor the seven in May and June produced any victims or serious material damage). No one has taken responsibility for any of the attacks and no clues to their author or authors has been found so far. Some sectors have magnified the acts, speaking of "systematic persecution of the Catholic Church" and presenting them as part of a strategy to prevent the Pope's plan visit to Nicaragua in February 1996, announced recently by Cardinal Obando y Bravo.


National Police Chief Fernando Caldera declared on July 10 that his institution is "bankrupt" and sounded an alert about the overcrowding in police detention centers. With a capacity for 1,900 prisoners, they now hold an average 2,500. "If this situation continues," Commander Caldera warned, "we will be forced not to capture those who commit crimes." The next day, authorities of the Penitentiary System informed that all the country's jails are saturated and that it would accept no more prisoners sent by the National Police.


According to Nicaragua's branch of the Spanish organization "Fundación El Patriarca," which works with drug abusers, 50 of every 1,000 Nicaraguans habitually use crack, a drug introduced into the country since 1992 by traffickers who get their supply in through the Atlantic Coast.


According to preliminary data based on the national census taken in May, the Nicaraguan population is still below four million. Of the 3,896,418 inhabitants, living in 284,359 households, 55.36% are under 15 years of age.

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